I am baffled by the state we are in today where there is no place for debate. A congressman shouts, "You lie," as our president speaks. There is no respect for the office and perhaps that began with my own disrespect for Bush and now it continues.
When I read this column by Thomas Friedman, I feel fear. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/30/opinion/30friedman.html?_r=2
The November Shambhala Sun is excellent and I recommend it for an array of articles but I was particularly caught by an interview with Jung Chang, author of Wild Swans and Mao:The Unknown Story, both of which are excellent books. Again, I recommend.
Jung Chang was born in 1952 in Sichuan province in a privileged environment because her parents were Communist officials. But then, the Cultural Revolution came and the atrocities began. She says, "If I had to choose one word to describe China under Mao, particularly during the Cultural Revolution, that word would be fear. I grew up with fear deeply embedded in my heart." Her parents stood up to Mao and suffered miserably.
When asked how a whole society can go insane, she says:
"Let me describe what happened during the Cultural Revolution. Mao wanted to purge the Communist party of officials who were disobeying him. He'd always used terror as a weapon but this time - because his goal was so ambitious - he needed more terror than usual. To generate it, he encouraged children and students to torture their teachers. Then he encouraged students to raid people's homes, to kill people, and beat them up." She goes on to describe how in the Cultural Revolution, cruelty was encouraged.
I recall learning that Hitler began by using the schools that already existed, by co-opting the schools. Now, children in this country are home-schooled. They are not socialized to hear and assimilate different viewpoints.
Here is an excerpt from her book, Mao: The Unknown Story.
"On 2 June (1966), a group from a middle school in Peking put up a wall poster, which they signed with the snappy name of "Red Guards," to show that they wanted to safeguard Mao. Their writing was full of remarks like: "Stuff human feelings!" "We will be brutal!" "We will strike you (Mao's enemies) to the ground and trample you." The seeds of hate that Mao had sown were ready for reaping. Now he was able to unleash the thuggery of these infected teenagers, the most malleable and violent element of society ...
On 18 August dressed in army uniform for the first time since 1949, Mao stood on Tiananmen Gate to review hundreds of thousands of Red Guards. This was when the Red Guards were written about in the national press and introduced to the nation and the world. A leading perpetrator of atrocities in a girls' school where the headmistress had just been killed was given the signal honor of putting a Red Guard armband on Mao. The dialogue that followed was made public: Chairman Mao asked her: "What's your name?" She said "Song Binbin." Chairman Mao asked: "Is is the 'Bin' as in 'Educated and Gentle;?" She said, "Yes." Chairman Mao said: "Be violent!" Song Binbin changed her name to "Be Violent" and her school changed its name to "The Red Violent School."
I keep thinking of the monk who was imprisoned by the Chinese. His only fear was that he would lose his ability to love his guards, that he would lose his ability to forgive. I hope, if the time comes, I can live so inspired.